OpenOffice.org Template Collections
Stubbornly, OpenOffice.org continues to ship with only a handful of templates. Despite the efforts of several sub-projects and individuals to change the situation, the standard OpenOffice.org download includes only a couple of slide show presentations and a few templates to accompany the wizards available in the file menu. This lack of templates is a serious handicap for many users, and often leaves a poor impression on new users who are accustomed to the selection of templates found in other office suites.
Fortunately, an hour on the Internet can net you hundreds of templates. Depending on the templates, you can install some as a package via Tools -> Extension Manage, and some individually by downloading the file and placing it in the ~/.openoffice.org2/user/template directory. To use a template, go to File -> New -> Templates and Documents, and scan.
Below are some of the most useful sources for templates. The content of these sources overlap to a degree, and the quality of individual templates varies in all of them. Still, between these sources, you may be able to find what you need without taking the trouble to design your own template.
OO Extras was one of the first sites for templates. It has been inactive for at least two periods that I'm aware of, but with a handful of contributions in 2008, the site show signs of recent revival.
With previews for everything, OO Extras is a site designed primarily for downloading individual templates as you need them. The site is somewhat haphazardly organized, with top-level buttons for clipart and Impress, but with templates for other OpenOffice.org applications divided by language -- Czech, English, French, German, or Italian. However, one you drill down to a specific language, tabs guide you to Writer, Calc, or Draw templates. You can start with the templates for your preferred language, but you may find that, with a few modifications, templates for other languages will be useful as well.
The selection of templates is also somewhat variable. No templates for Base are available on OO Extras at all. Nor is the clipart selection very useful, since it consists largely of icon sets and a few collections such as flow chart symbols, which are now integrated into the Drawing tool bar. The Draw tools are only slightly better, with a handful of templates for such purposes as CD covers, inlays, and booklets.
But the site more than makes up for these deficiencies with templates for the core templates. For Writer, the site includes a legal pleading template, as well as one for a research paper that uses APA style and a template for software or hardware documentation. Calc is even better represented, with a mixture of spreadsheets for home use, such as bank account balancing, credit card payment and vehicle service, and spreadsheets for small businesses, such as petty cash, sales targets, and employee attendance.
However, by far the best-represented application is Impress. As you have probably seen and cursed, in most incarnations, Impress ships with only two background templates, neither of which is polished enough for serious use. Since slide shows are nothing without suitable backgrounds, this is a serious usability defect. But OO Extras more than compensates, with over sixty templates. Maybe a fifth of these are too busy for print in their foreground to be legible, and palettes of blues are over-represented in the remainder, but, despite these limitations, you should still be able to find templates for your purposes. Many of the Impress templates come in both OpenOffice.org and PowerPoint formats, which may be useful if you are regularly switching between operating systems.
Licensing is not given for individual templates, but apparently everything on the OO Extras site is released under the GNU Lesser Public License, like OpenOffice.org itself.
The Professional Template Pack is a bit of an anomaly. Available as an extension, it is released under a peculiar freeware license that, while permitting both personal and commercial use, prohibits redistribution or the making of more than a single backup. Essentially, the license is not a free one, which may make it unacceptable to some users.
For those who decide to use the collection, its templates round off the handful that OpenOffice.org includes by default. Using the wizards in the File menu, you can create various business documents with formats described (loosely, in my opinion) as as Elegant, Formal, or Modern. The Professional Template pack adds other documents to this collection, such as Elegant press releases and Modern invoices, providing a complete set of branded documents.
Other templates in the download include ones for writing master's theses, preparing lecture notes, and writing a standard resume, as well as several for home use, such as ones for a gift certificate or for league tournaments. Several examples of personal stationery are also included.
However, as with OO Extras, the Professional Template Pack is especially useful if you are looking for Impress templates. The pack comes with 40 backgrounds, almost all of which are either careful to avoid being so busy that they obscure the text or else confine designs to the margins of the slides -- although, as with OO Extra's collection, shades of blue tend to predominate.
Even more welcome are the pack's organizational templates. Although often overlooked by users, these are the templates you can choose by selecting the From template radio button on the first slide of Impress' opening wizard. Chosen independently of the background template, an organizational template starts your slide show with a number of pre-set (but editable) slides. The Professional Template Pack comes with almost two dozen organizational templates, including ones for such purposes as brainstorming, making a business report, and welcoming new employees.
OpenOffice.org's Documentation Project provides another major source for individual templates. On the whole, its collection tends to be more idiosyncratic than those in OO Extras or the Professional Template Pack -- but, if you need one of its unusual collections, that is an attraction rather than a drawback.
The project's collection includes templates for marketing plans, organization charts, raffle tickets, curriculum vitae, three-fold brochures, and even an origami CD envelope. One section is given over to legal documents, which includes not only two separate pleading templates, but also ones for confidentiality,joint, maintenance, and partnership and agreements. It also includes a small but high-quality collection of Impress backgrounds, strangely divided into the categories of Bitmaps, Gradient Fills, and Plain.
Rather annoyingly, you have to drill down to see previews of these templates -- if any is provided at all. However, the general quality makes this source worth taking time over, especially if you are unable to find the template you need elsewhere.
OxygenOffice Professional is an enhanced version of OpenOffice.org. For the most part, these enhancements take the form of dozens of templates, some of them borrowed from other sources, and others that are apparently original to OxygenOffice. You can download OxygenOffice's templates separately from the program, and install them as an extension.
The collection is too varied to do full justice to in a summary, but two areas in which it is especially comprehensive are business letters and graph paper templates. If anything, OxygenOffice Extras tends to be too undiscriminating, with the quality of its contents varying from the professional to the sloppily amateurish, and templates carry a variety of licenses, varying from Creative Commons variants to the GNU General Public License, but, all the same, if you only want to install a single template collection, it should probably be your first choice.
These are only the largest collections of templates. Increasingly, the OpenOffice.org Extensions site is including templates; those already posted include ones for writing books and movie scripts. The site also contains links to all the other sources listed here.
I should also mention the label templates made by WorldLabel.com, the company that sponsored an OpenOffice.org template contest several years ago. Free for the download, these templates are compatible with most Avery labels.
Like extensions, templates have been slow to appear for OpenOffice.org, but are finally starting to become more readily available. Many of the collections mentioned here welcome new contributions, so if you have a template that you are willing to release under a free license, you might consider doing so. It's a small but effective way to contribute to free software, particularly if you have developed something unique.
Bruce Byfield (nanday)
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